The relative importance of kinetic mechanisms and variable enzyme abundances for the regulation of hepatic glucose metabolism--insights from mathematical modeling

BMC Biol. 2016 Mar 2:14:15. doi: 10.1186/s12915-016-0237-6.


Background: Adaptation of the cellular metabolism to varying external conditions is brought about by regulated changes in the activity of enzymes and transporters. Hormone-dependent reversible enzyme phosphorylation and concentration changes of reactants and allosteric effectors are the major types of rapid kinetic enzyme regulation, whereas on longer time scales changes in protein abundance may also become operative. Here, we used a comprehensive mathematical model of the hepatic glucose metabolism of rat hepatocytes to decipher the relative importance of different regulatory modes and their mutual interdependencies in the hepatic control of plasma glucose homeostasis.

Results: Model simulations reveal significant differences in the capability of liver metabolism to counteract variations of plasma glucose in different physiological settings (starvation, ad libitum nutrient supply, diabetes). Changes in enzyme abundances adjust the metabolic output to the anticipated physiological demand but may turn into a regulatory disadvantage if sudden unexpected changes of the external conditions occur. Allosteric and hormonal control of enzyme activities allow the liver to assume a broad range of metabolic states and may even fully reverse flux changes resulting from changes of enzyme abundances alone. Metabolic control analysis reveals that control of the hepatic glucose metabolism is mainly exerted by enzymes alone, which are differently controlled by alterations in enzyme abundance, reversible phosphorylation, and allosteric effects.

Conclusion: In hepatic glucose metabolism, regulation of enzyme activities by changes of reactants, allosteric effects, and reversible phosphorylation is equally important as changes in protein abundance of key regulatory enzymes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Glucagon / blood
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / enzymology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Rats


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Glycogen
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose